This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Aston Villa’s playoff-winning honeymoon in the Premier League has been far from the perfect marriage.
It started with a Saturday evening trip to north London to face the Champions League finalists, Tottenham, who were baying for blood after defeat to Liverpool.
They then finished just before the international break with a controversial loss just north of Croydon – not the most glamorous holiday, mind.
The angry scenes at Selhurst Park weren’t helped by the referee nor from winger Trezeguet, who was sent off for two silly yellow cards – but that in itself epitomised what appears to be a problem out wide for Villa boss Dean Smith.
The aforementioned Egyptian plus Jota and Anwar El Ghazi have managed just a goal and one assist between them in four Premier League matches, per WhoScored, which isn’t good enough and considering they’ve lost three of those games, something has to change.
One solution may lie in a slight tweak to the system, one that could be made a serious reality because of the options Smith has at his disposal.
The squad has a wealth of talent in central midfield – if you consider that Jack Grealish and John McGinn are certainties to start then you’ve also got the summer signing pair of Douglas Luiz and Marvelous Nakamba on top of Conor Hourihane and Henri Lansbury.
Even then, it is usually a defensive-minded midfielder so that rules out Lansbury to some extent.
But the 48-year-old should utilise another one of them in what could be a diamond midfield spearheaded by McGinn or Grealish.
Hourihane did no wrong in the opening game against Spurs, scoring a rating of 7.06 before being dropped for Luiz ever since.
Meanwhile, Lansbury has shown he could prove to be an unlikely rotation option gong forward after his brace in the Carabao Cup.
Considering the wingers have struggled in the Premier League, moving to this system and making use of their strength in depth in midfield would be a viable alternative. It could just allow them to finally thrive in the Premier League.